HC Deb 02 August 1965 vol 717 cc1045-6
19. Mr. Snow

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will examine the possibility of constructing, within suitable British embassies, accommodation for permanent trade centres.

Mr. Padley

Perhaps my hon. Friend would give me a more precise indication of what he has in mind. We are certainly anxious that embassies should give all appropriate assistance in export promotion, but I think that non-official organisations would prefer that nonofficial centres overseas should be kept separate from official missions.

Mr. Snow

Is my hon. Friend saying that our trade centres are not a Government responsibility? In that case, may I draw his attention to the conclusion of the Plowden Committee, which clearly stated that commercial and economic responsibilities must be a first charge on our overseas missions?

Mr. Padley

I devoted a substantial part of my speech in the last foreign affairs debate to explaining how the Government were seeking to implement the Plowden Committee's view that export promotion should be a first charge on the Diplomatic Service; but the plain fact is that the National Export Council, the Confederation of British Industries and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce all consider that it would be preferable for unofficial organisations overseas to be kept separate from official missions.

Mr. W. Baxter

Would my hon. Friend look again at this matter, as most of our trade attachés have little knowledge or understanding of the problems confronting Scotland? Would not trade attaches well versed in our problems be able to help in the development of our trade?

Mr. Padley

Our overseas missions which I have personally inspected in the last nine months have been admirable and do not bear out my hon. Friend's contention.

Mr. Costain

I agree that commercial counsellors in our embassies are doing a very good job. However, will the Minister see that when they come to this country they take ample opportunity to visit industries in order to familiarise themselves with British products?

Mr. Padley

That is well in accord with established practice.